Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
Category: Arts and Entertainment
Asked by: proffes-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 16 Feb 2005 03:55 PST
Expires: 18 Mar 2005 03:55 PST
Question ID: 475370
I have read that actors have a technique to ellict their own emtions.
As part of their training they will revist painful expereinces whether
of their childhood or more recent past, and then experience that
emotion. By revisiting that feeling, and then on a regular baisis
bring that scene back up they keep the emotion fresh. So that when the
movie or play calls for them to cry, or fall in love, or whatever
emotion is needed they mearly conjour up that old scene in their mind
and feel that emotion, hence the acting isn't as much acting as it is
really feeling that emotion.

I am interested in reading more about this techniuqe, its practice and
use in stage and movie acting.
Subject: Re: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 16 Feb 2005 09:34 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello proffes~

Although great actors have probably been performing in this manner
since ancient times, what you describe is credited to actor, director,
and producer Constantin (sometimes spelled by Konstantin) Sergeyevich
Stanislavsky, born in Russian in 1863. It is called ?The Stanislavsky
System,? ?Method Acting,? or  ?The Method.?

Stanislavsky hated the overly-theatrical, unrealistic acting of his
age, and instead strove for what he called ?believable truth.? One of
his main tenants was ?emotional memory,? where actors remember things
that happened in their past, keep their reactions and emotions to
those things fresh, then use this for emotional responses while
acting. He was quite literal in his beliefs; for example, ?to prepare
for a role that involves fear, the actor must remember something
frightening, and attempt to act the part in the emotional space of
that fear they once felt.? (?Method Acting and Stanislavsky ,?  )

Stanislavsky  wrote of his method in such books as ?My Life in Art,?
?An Actor Prepares,? ?Building a Character,? and ?Creating a Role.?

The Method really took off in the 1930s, particularly on film, and
such well-known actors as Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Marlon Brando, Al
Pacino, and Lee Strasberg use(d) The Method--and elaborated upon it.
The Actor?s Studio is an organized proponent of  The Method, and was
established in 1947 by directors Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, and
Robert Lewis. Many film stars have come from its classes. Lee
Strasburg is now considered one of the great Method teachers of modern
times, and though he died in the 1980s, his studio continues on.
( )

Marlon Brando is often given credit for bringing the Method to the
forefront in the movie industry. ?In his films of the early 50s,
Brando brought a raw naturalistic realism to the screen - a new style
termed Method Acting that he had acquired at the Actors Studio in New
York, also exemplified in the acting of Montgomery Clift and James
Dean in the era.? (?Film History of the 1950s:? ) When Brando won acclaim for
his roles in ?Streetcar Named Desire? and ?On the Waterfront,?  Method
acting became the thing every ?serious? film actor strived for. (So
much so that when Marilyn Monroe, who also studied at The Actor?s
Studio, was filming a ball-bouncing scene in ?The Misfits,? she had
trouble getting through a take. She felt she just wasn?t ?in the

For more about The Method, please check out these resources:

* ?A Look at Stanislavsky?s Method,? The Actor?s Studio: , a brief overview of the
Method and it?s impact.

* ??Method? Acting Procedures,? Theatre Group: , which includes information on how
to use sense memory, ?moment-to-moment? acting, and more.

* ?Stanislavsky on the Art of the Stage,? by Konstantin Stanislavsky:

* ?An Actors Prepares? by Konstantin Stanislavsky:

* ?Respect for Acting? by Uta Hagen:

* ?The Art of Acting? by Stella Adler:

* ?Accidentally on Purpose? by Lee Strasburg:

* For a skeptical look at the method, see ?Madness in the Method:?

I hope that this fully answers your question; however, if anything is
unclear, please don?t hesitate to request a clarification before
rating this Answer.

Kind regards,

?history of? method acting
?method acting?
?Method acting?  impact film
?method acting? impact stage
proffes-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great answer. Thanks

Subject: Re: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
From: puffin88-ga on 16 Feb 2005 06:42 PST
The technique is called "method acting", or just "method".  Some of
the big names associated with it are Marlon Brando (as a performer)
and Konstantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg (as teachers.)  A google
search on any of those names should turn up some interesting stuff.

A great book on it is "Respect for Acting" by Uta Hagen
Subject: Re: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
From: monroe22-ga on 17 Feb 2005 08:44 PST
The great actress Glenda Jackson said:  When I have to cry, I think of
my sex life. When I have to laugh, I think of my sex life.
Subject: Re: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
From: angy-ga on 17 Feb 2005 20:06 PST
Two additional points to add to kriswrite's excellent answer.

Stanislavsky himself devised his method to assist a actors  who
already had a grounding in effective theatrical technique - which they
tended to rely on at the expense of taking a fresh look at a role.
However the actors he trained were still expected to be able to "find
the light", move around a stage without tripping over, project their
voices so that they could be heard etc. etc.

In other words, basic craftsmanship was still expected.

Second, one of the very first lessons warns against using emotion
memories that are too painful. It is not necessary to relive one's
grief over the loss of a parent to tap into a feeling of grief when
playing Hamlet. If you tried that in performance you'd probably not
make it through. There's not enough control. It's possible to tap into
a lesser emotion - how you felt when your pet rat /goldfish etc. died.

Third, again one of the early exercises involved creating a character
from externals - costume, makeup - and working from there into the

The Actor's Studio built on this and moved away from it to created a
uniquely American Method, particularly suitable for film.
Subject: Re: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
From: endeavor-ga on 28 Feb 2005 16:29 PST
hi, proffes.
just to flesh things out a little more, here's some quick info you
might find helpful, regarding your question about acting technique.
Stanislavsky might not have been pleased to have his entire life's
work coined by the phrase "method acting". This approach is mostly
attributed to Lee Strasberg's technique. Strasberg taught in the U.S.
Stanislavsky's later work (and later books) focused more on the
actor's use of "objectives" or "actions" to bring a scene to life.
It may be beneficial for some actors (especially younger actors, who
are heavily into exploring a whole range of newfound emotions) to use
the Method Techniques such as Sense Memory (recalling a sad event, for
example, to bring the desired emotions to a scene), this approach is
far less popular now than it was approx. thirty to forty years ago.
For one thing, it can be relatively unreliable (what if thinking about
my deceased dog doesn't bring the tears one night during a show?) and
also it takes the actor out of the present moment with the other
actors (how can i organically engage & truthfully interact with the
other characters onstage or oncamera when i am distracted by trying to
conjure up the image of my poor dead dog at the same time?)
If an actor decides on an Objective or Goal to invest in for the scene
(e.g., "in this scene with Romeo, I am going to use the scripted lines
to get his complete assurance", or "in this scene with so-&-so, I am
going to get an apology"), then any interaction the actor has with
other actors will automatically bring an emotional response, based on
the success or failure of the other actors' responses (the other
actors may have opposing objectives, for example).  This allows an
actor to be connected "in-the-moment", to work spontaneously, bravely
and creatively while using the scripted lines, and to be less

Meisner worked a little bit like this. Another book, titled, "The
Practical Handbook for the Actor", is invaluable in introducing this
useful and liberating approach.
Subject: Re: Actors technique of arousing their own emotions
From: kyuboria-ga on 09 Mar 2005 06:27 PST
Not only is this an effective technique for actors, but in writing it
is a useful method to get into the mind of your character. For
example, imagine that someone is trapped in a dark tunnel, fumbling on
the ground for a dropped set of keys while a poisonous snake is known
to be nearby. The more realistically you can mentally place yourself
in that situation, the more realistically you can portray it to your
readers. It makes you ask the question "What would this person
actually feel or do in this situation?"

I have done some acting as well as writing, and would say that there
is definitely potential carry-over into the literary world.

William R. Vitanyi, Jr.
Author, "Palm Sunday"
Author, "Kyuboria"

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy